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"right-now" interaction is not all it's cracked up to be

There are a few web sites that exist right now that are all about people using live content. Stickam and Ustream are the most popular to the best of my knowledge.

Both suck. More on that in a moment.

In the beginning there was e-mail. It was good. Still is. By nature it's not a right-now technology. Someone sends e-mail to you, you receive it, think about replying to it, then either reply or not. Simple.

Then there were chat rooms. Okay, this is a right-now technology, but only if you're physically logged into the chat room at the time. It is a crappy means of communication because it's completely chaotic. (Try logging in to a chat room with over 100 users in it and attempt to keep up with all the text flying on the screen. Good luck!)

Then there were instant messengers, another right-now technology. This is the evolution of a chat room (supposedly). Instead of using AOL or IRC, you login elsewhere and use a client to send little messages to each other in one-on-one communication. This is also a crappy means of communication because people take it too seriously. And if you lose messages due to something beyond your control (such as a power outage), there's no way to get them back. Unlike e-mail where you can go back and review things, when you lose an instant message, it's gone. Kaput. Buh-bye.

Now that bandwidth is relatively cheap, sites have sprouted up that allow right-now live chat rooms with video feeds. You create an account, hook up your web cam, and off you go. These little mini-rooms are a video feed with a chat room attached to it. If you're saying to yourself "Um... isn't that a step backwards in communication?", you're ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. We finally got to the point where we could avoid the chaos of a chat room only to go right back to it.

I've watched a few Ustream and Stickam feeds. They're all terrible. The video content is boring and the chat rooms are full of netspeaking idiots. This is supposed to be the next big thing?

I don't think so.

Want to know something ironic?

The people who are making the best use out of the video feeds are radio stations. All they do is stick a cam in the studio and keep on doing their regular broadcasts, like LINK 92.2FM does in the UK. All the effort that's being put forth into allowing users to broadcast video feeds is trumped by radio guys who essentially only use it as a tool to rebroadcast audio.

If that's not irony I don't know what is.

It also proves that the right-now video feed thing only works when you have quality content. Otherwise it's a complete waste of time. At least with radio you can minimize the video feed window so you can do other things on your computer. Remember multitasking? Yeah, that thing that computers do so well these days? Can't exactly do that too well when you're staring at a crappy video feed.


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